The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Lawry’s Restaurants recently agreed to settle a gender discrimination class action alleging that the chain hired only women for its food server positions. The EEOC filed the suit after Lawry’s Las Vegas restaurant refused to accept a male busboy’s application for an opening as a food server.

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On Nov. 23, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement issued an opinion letter stating that employers may deduct vacation and sick leave banks for exempt employees’ partial-day absences of fewer than four hours without risking their exempt status.

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Puma North America has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that it failed to pay on time about $350,000 to hundreds of employees. Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank conditionally certified the class to include the company’s hourly, nonexempt retail store employees who received late paychecks between 2004 and 2008.

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If you’ve ever been involved in litigation, you know that lawsuits can be complicated and costly affairs. Your case undoubtedly pales in comparison to one about to be resolved in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. About the best that can be said for the case, involving an alleged stock-options backdating scheme at semiconductor maker Broadcom Corp., is that the lawyers will be well paid.

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Under the ADA, employers aren’t allowed to subject employees to medical tests unless they can prove that the examinations are job-related and consistent with business necessity. However, they can ask employees to perform agility tests. The line between the two is difficult to find. But get it wrong, and you may have an ADA discrimination case on your hands.

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With Republican Scott Brown’s stunning victory in a January special election, Democrats lost their filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate. That shift has cast doubt on organized labor’s top legislative priority—the so-called Employee Free Choice Act. So is this the end of the EFCA? Probably yes—at least as it’s currently written, but it’s too soon to celebrate.

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California employers are popular targets for lawyers looking for the next big lawsuit hit. They may have found a new one right under their … well … butts.

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Employers, beware if you don’t stay on top of the intricacies of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The fact is, the law is still developing and employers that don’t keep up will be caught. Consider the following case involving the seemingly old question of “donning and doffing” clothing and gear before and after clocking in:

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Some disabilities require the use of medications with side effects. If one of those is sleepiness and fatigue, employers may have to accommodate those. That’s why it’s crucial for you to begin the interactive process as soon as you learn that an employee is having trouble because of the medication he uses. The worst thing you can do is to simply terminate him because he nodded off.

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Employees won’t win race discrimination disparate-impact lawsuits just by showing that their employer’s workforce isn’t racially balanced. They also have to show that the employer applied a specific or particular employment practice that created the disparate impact.

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